Judge in Archdiocese Sex Abuse Case Keeps Jury Questions Secret

By Ralph Cipriano
Big Trial
January 28, 2013

She sealed the pre-trial hearings. She sealed the pre-trial motions.

Today, Judge Ellen Ceisler kept three out of four jury questions a secret, as she invited lawyers on both sides of the case back to her chambers for a couple of private discussions.

Since there's a continuing gag order in the case, lawyers on both sides are precluded from talking to reporters.

The one jury question read out in public today was why did the older brother of "Billy Doe" not honor a subpoena from the defense, which set off an argument between the prosecutor and a defense lawyer.

"He was never subpoenaed," Assistant District Attorney Mark Cipolletti told the judge. When defense lawyer Michael J. McGovern started to argue, the judge cut him off, saying, "You sent it first class, you don't know if he got it."

Billy's older brother "never ignored the subpoena," Cipolletti insisted. The prosecutor complained that McGovern deliberately brought up the subpoena in front of the jury during the trial one day by loudly asking if Billy had shown up yet. When McGovern tried to speak again, the judge cut him off again, saying she was "upset when you did that and it's coming back to bite you now."

McGovern started to argue, then decided to zip it.

"There is no proof of service," Cipolletti told the judge. "That's what happens when you do things at the last minute."

The judge said she would write a note back to the jury, saying, "There's no evidence that he received a subpoena."

"I don't think it's gonna end today," the judge told lawyers in the courtroom.

Shortly after, the judge sent the jury home at 4 p.m. She did not bring jurors out so reporters could see what condition they were in. Spectators in the courtroom were not allowed to leave until the jurors had left the building.

It was the first full day of deliberations for the jury of eight men and four women in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sex abuse case. The jury got the case last Friday, and deliberated for two hours before they were sent home for the weekend.

McGovern had talked in court about serving a subpoena on Billy Doe's older brother, who is a lawyer. The older brother attended St. Jerome Catholic School and also served as an altar boy, just like Billy did. He also went on to Archbishop Ryan High School, and graduated, unlike his younger brother who was kicked out in freshman year for possession of marijuana and brass knuckles.

In the absence of official comment, sources said jurors had asked for transcripts of grand jury testimony from Billy Doe, his mother, and Louise Hagner, the social worker from the archdiocese that Billy first told his story to back in 2009.

Hagner's handwritten notes of her interview with Billy, and a subsequent typed report were the subject of a lengthy cross-examination that found several discrepancies between what Billy told Hagner and what Billy subsequently told police and a grand jury. Billy told the jury in this case that he was high on drugs and did not remember anything he told Hagner.








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.